Being “On Top”

How impossible are playdates when you want to catch up on the goss, but you also need to keep a carefully trained eye on the behaviour of the spawn? 

 

Soft play centres and parks are littered with mums with roaming eyes, having half conversations and abandoning coffee to rescue chimps from apparatus, whilst pivoting on a 360 swivel like a jewellery box ballerina.  

You want to be involved in meaningful adult conversations, but you also don’t want your little one to fall, get lost, eat poo, (theirs/others) or stab someone with a stick, so we resort to all manner of tactics to keep eyes on the mini, without appearing to be their bodyguard.  

I had a particularly embarrassing experience on our recent trip to Mallorca, where I was faced with the predicament of trying to be friendly and hilarious (always keen to impress new people), whilst trying to maintain a cool demeanour and relaxed parenting approach.     I do not have a relaxed parenting approach.   I do not want people to know that, of  course.   I want to appear…..breezy.

Breezy, Breezy, Breezy

A few days in to the holiday, Chopper and Mr G met a family from Glasgow. They bonded in the swimming pool over inflatable jet skis and mutual love of dunking.  That evening, as we loitered for a seat at the kids disco, the family extended an invite to their table.

The disco was a slush-fuelled, densely populated rampage of tots through to teens, held in a large area beside the pool.  Essentially…Hell.  Hell, on slush.

Taking my seat, I gave a friendly smile, sparked up the usual holiday convo, and before long we were bonding over all-inclusive cocktails and doing the pantomime eye roll at the boys, who were roaring at each other like dinosaurs. 

New BFFs

Ten minutes in, we are getting along peachy.   Mr G is having a hoot wBeing on Topith Mr Scottish Bloke, the dinosaur kids are now bumping trucks on the table, and me and Scottish Wife are full-on lolling.   Internal monologue is fast-forwarding to visiting their house in Scotland, our boys being best man at each other’s wedding, and me and Scottish Wife meeting up for girl’s weekends.  I’m literally happily ever aftering….

We chat about all sorts, it’s an instant click, and I’m thinking this new gal pal is a keeper.   Ok, so I’ve only been chatting to her for a mere 20 minutes, but 20 minutes at Frozen Margarita pace is the equivalent of 6 months in real time as any girl knows. 

What followed this ignition of a new friendship was a lightning quick catalogue of events requiring fast parental judgement…..something I do not excel at.   Something which was going to expose me in front of my new BFF for the frantic parent I am. 

Chopper started to complain about his trainers, which were ‘melting his feet off’.  Mr G declares he will go up to the room to get flip-flops.   With Chopper on my knee, I am prising trainers off his swollen trotters, and as I do, I knock the table, causing a shocking domino rally of drinks all over the floor.   The waiter approaches swiftly, muttering under his breath, and barks for my replacement drinks order whilst ferociously mopping the table. 

Amidst the Margarita mess, Chopper’s new Scottish pal runs over and asks him to play.   He shoots off my lap barefooted and runs over to the disco leaving me no time to remind him of the KEY HOLIDAY RULE (always make sure you can see me and I can see you).   I call it a holiday rule, but it’s technically a rule of life, as I remind him everytime we leave the house, because that’s how breezy I am. 

Only this time, in the 30 seconds of chaos, I lose sight of the precious cargo.  

I jolt up and knock my handbag down off the seat, sending half the contents of Superdrug over the floor, including my holiday hero, Mitchum deodorant. (Heat is not my friend).    Ignoring the bright green bottle rolling at pace under various tables, I create a makeshift telescope with my hands and do a Keanu/Matrix style scan of the dance floor, approximately 15 metres away.   The Scottish Wife is gawping at my madcap performance.   

I can’t see him.

I rush up to the dance floor, waving sweaty pits in the air and knocking plastic chairs as I go.  I’m now shoulder barging people out of the way, rummaging through children like odd socks in an underwear drawer, discarding unwanted ones violently. Clammy infants strewn to the side with wild abandon whilst I try to locate the khaki shorts and green t-shirt of my first-born.   (Actually only-born but first-born sounds in keeping with the drama).

When I realise I have sifted through 90% of the population of the dance floor, I pirouette to scan the perimeter. 

Still no Chopper.  

After several manic 360 turns, I start making my way to the stage to get a bird’s eye view.  As I’m climbing the stairs at the side of the stage, taking 3 steps at a time, about to upset tonight’s performance of “Pin the tail on the Pirate”, I spot him.  Stood just behind the stage. 

Laughing his tits off with his new pal.  

Shameless.  Brazen.  Oblivious.

I march over to him and without a word, point to the wall to indicate I require him to be propped up against it whilst I deliver the sermon.  I sense I must look absolutely nuts at this point with my steely dragon face and out of control sweat patches.  

Only, out of the corner of my eye, I see Chopper’s new little pal, staring at me with a mixture of amusement and bafflement.  I sense for the first time in his 4 year old life, that I am about to embarrass the shit out of my son.

I retreat. 

I inhale deeply to calm down the wheezy panty breaths….and I give Chopper a hug, whisper a small ‘refresh’ of the acceptable zones of play in his ear before flashing a wide grin and employing the sing song voice. “Enjoy yourself, poppet!”

Breezy.

As I head back to the table wafting the sweat away and trying to plaster my sticky hair down, Mr G has returned.

He is standing with my Mitchum deodorant in his hands, and Chopper’s flip-flops.   From the look on his face, Scottish Family have filled him in on my curious lunacy, and my violent karate chopping of children of the dance floor. As I look at the face of Scottish Wife, I’m sensing a premature curtailment of our blossoming friendship. 

Being on Top 3

I was right.  Our friendship never did develop into that happy ever after.   I think I actually saw her do a 360 swivel away from me at breakfast.  

Jab Jab Upper Cut

Before Chopper was born, I lived life through diaries and spreadsheets.  Not a single ounce of fun was had without planning for it.   At times, I was technically accruing fun before having it.

So when I found out I was mit Kind, I intended nothing to change.   I carefully constructed a spreadsheet to plan what to buy, how much to save, and crucially, what the route-to-sleeping-through-the-night would be.   I intended to go back to work after 6 months, so getting the baba to sleep through the night was crucial.  In my naïve little mind, it all made perfect sense.

The Route to Sleep Plan was my home made day-by-day plan adapted from several parenting books, drawing out nap plans and milk consumption in careful detail.    I am ashamed to say, I laminated it.  Laminated.  You heard right.

So with my trusty plastic-coated sheet and my overnight bag packed months before, I trundled through pregnancy in a joyous bubble, eating my weight in cream cakes and being a motionless slob.     I batch-cooked my ass off knowing that preparing meals would be a low priority, but I didn’t want Mr G and I to exist on takeaways in our usual knee-jerk reaction to change (the house move, the post wedding blues, the kitchen refit).

The first few weeks of Chopper’s life was a write off.   I can’t technically account for this time in any level of detail as it was a mass of mayhem, fuelled by adrenalin, half-eaten pizzas (returned to and eaten cold the next morning), and pints of coffee, again usually drank cold.

By the fifth week, in a tiny moment of bizarre clarity,  I remembered the laminated spreadsheet.   I retrieved it from the yet-unpacked hospital bag and studied it carefully.   In my destroyed sleep-deprived existence, I cried with hysterical laughter.

What an absurd individual I was….only 5 weeks ago.

My laughter tears quickly turned into real tears as I reminisced on my impeccably organised past life.    In an attempt to channel my former self, I walked up the mirror, did a few ‘eye of the tiger’ sparring jabs at myself, and tried to draw upon the years of successful organisation that had held me in such good stead previously.   It was time to show this kid how shit goes down.

I studied week 1 – 5 which obviously I was assessing in retrospect.  F*ck, we had a lot of work to do.

We had started some vague semblance of a bedtime routine, but the daytime plans were currently set at ‘survive’.     The very next day, I started the plan at week 6, and tried to establish set times for naps.    I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy.   Chopper liked to sleep, sure.  Just not when it said in the plan.   So 5 minutes before nap time, if it looked unlikely he would fall asleep in his cot, I would furiously rush around to get the pram ready, and put my coat on ready to brave the January winter chill.  I would then march around the neighbourhood with demented ferocity and watch him nod off to a blissful sleep, whilst I would claim a small victory inside.

We had all kinds of rules going on – super quick night feed, no lights on, no rocking to sleep, short afternoon naps to make sure he was well rested for the long night time sleep.   It was a bloody minefield.    I knew it was stupid, people told me it was stupid.  But in my steadfast will to get this baby working around me, I ignored the lot of them.

One night, about 4 months in, Mr G got up in the middle of the night to change Chopper’s nappy, which was filling the room with a potent whiff.    Conscious of obeying the nightime procedures, he attempted to change the most revolting explosion in the dim light of a reading torch.  Needless to say, it didn’t go according to plan.

I lay in bed trying to ignore the mud wrestling going on at the foot of the bed, until Mr G finally cracked.

He turned THE BIG LIGHT ON.

I jolted upright in bed, Exorcist Style.

He turned to me with a look that suggested some shit may be thrown my way if I muttered a word…..then we both took Chopper to the bathroom and washed his entire body down hose pipe style.   Chopper was certainly wide awake by this time.

Sometimes, even the best laid plans gotta have some ‘give’.

The final straw in the relentless scheme was when Chopper was about 12 months old, and I was cutting down his afternoon nap to a a mere 15 minutes, with a view to cutting it out entirely.    It was painful.   Waking a baby up who has barely drifted off is cruel….no matter how you slice it, the baffled infant didn’t know what was going on.    He had barely got comfy before I was in swooping him up for wide awake time.    When I suggested to Mr G that we cut it down to 10 minutes, he shot me down in an instant.

“The poor kid is going to end up sleeping military style with one eye open.   It’s time you cut him some slack, before he starts swiping at you with a penknife”.

So we stopped the whole charade.

4 years on, I’d like to say I’m more relaxed.   There’s a certain clarity of thinking that comes from having 8 hours sleep.

Sometimes when I look at my actions in the early months, I shudder with embarrassment.    I bet my family thought I was batshit crazy with my eternal lists and measures of milk.

Sometimes, in the depths of uncertainty, you do what makes sense to you at the time.  My sense was to laminate the shit out of everything, and when it went wrong, wipe it clean and start again the next day.

If you’re interested…..Chopper sleeps soundly now, with both eyes shut.

Indebted….

I’m a tad obsessed with bringing up Chopper to be a grateful child.   Being thankful and polite was something heavily drilled into me from an early age.   I remember phoning Uncle’s and Auntie’s (on the landline -1980s obvs) to say ‘thank you’ for my box of Roses/Quality Street with a fiver attached, and being told repeatedly how much everything was, and what blood, sweat and tears had been shed.

I’m not gonna lie, it got tiring.   I don’t think I ever once sat there contemplating said blood, sweat and tears, but I knew the drill.   Stuff costs money, so when you get it, you say thanks, and you try your hardest to look genuine about it.

“Me and your mum have worked hard for this food, so you’ll damn well eat it!”

“£30 for a Naff Naff Jacket, not likely kiddo, you can save up yourself”.  On £1.20 pocket money, which I spent every week on a quarter of Choc-Lick and a Strawberry ‘Break Time’, I was never getting the jacket.

So as a kid I wasn’t ever really thankful.   I am not sure any kids truly are.

However, when I was 19, my trusty Ford Fiesta left its exhaust, and my dignity, on the M6 Motorway.    A few weeks after, my mum drew £500 out of her bank to buy me a Nissan Micra.   She couldn’t afford it.   I knew that.   I needed the car, and she went into debt for it.

Looking back on that moment, I was finally grateful.

So now, I have a slight fixation with Chopper understanding the value of things.   The issue is, he has just turned 4.   He can barely contemplate why he has to get dressed every day, never mind why Mummy and Daddy go to work.

Regardless, I plough on with my quest for infant gratitude, with fervour and deluded tenacity.   I point out how much his new shoes cost, I remind him how much effort went into the butternut squash/fake macaroni cheese he shoves around his plate, and ask him to say thank you for each TINY LITTLE THING I do for him.

It’s not working.

Sometimes his eyes actually seem to look through me.  I can see him thinking… “Yo, strange shouty lady, I’ll wipe my own post-poo backside, if we have to go through this thank you pantomime every time you do it.”

Mr G, as is often the case, is much more relaxed than me, and has the parenting game down to a fine art.   Pick your battles, the rest he’ll figure out on his own.   Me, I want ALL the battles, and I want to win them.   Ideally, I want Chopper to know how much effort went into winning too, as an added “end of war” bonus.

So, in an attempt to lighten what has become a tiresome charade for Chopper, I took the day off work, and we planned a fun day together.  Mum and son time. He will love it. I will get the thankfulness I so shallowly crave in bucket loads.

So we set of on our amazing day of fun!  First, trampolining!  Bouncing around, revealing the flab to all and sundry, loads of fun, and Chopper loved it.

For half an hour.

“I want a snack now, I have had enough”

I grit my teeth, thinking of the £12 paid for half an hour of sweaty crotch activity…but in the spirit of being more relaxed, I take a deep breath and say “That’s fine, let’s get off”

Post-trampolining, we go to the sports shop to pick up some shin pads I had promised. Rifling through the racks, I pick up a respectable pair of own-brand red shin pads. He baulks at those. He wants the blue ones.

“They go under your socks, you don’t see them”

“I waaaaaaaant them Mummy”.

Fighting hard against my usual intolerance for whining, but taking inspiration from Mr G’s approach, I concentrate hard on not losing my cool, and buy the shin pads…..and the football he has been booting around the store.

I pay the money, pass over the goods to the waiting grubby hands, and stare expectantly with a wide grin and open arms.

Nothing.

Move on.

Our planned pizza visit was based loosely on the assumption that actual pizza would be eaten.   Funny concept I know.   Instead, he fills up on the free salad bar (when I say salad bar I mean he chooses Doritos, Beetroot and Croutons), and then eats approximately 100th of his pizza.

The day ends…..a £50 lighter Mummy….still NO THANK YOU.

That night, pyjama and milk time, I sensed it was coming.    We were about to have the mum/son moment I had been waiting for.

We sat on the bed together snuggled up reading a book.   I started to feel less fussed about the gratitude, and more warm and fuzzy about the time spent with the little man.  As we finished the book, I went to switch the light out and said “Night night Chopper, I’ve had a great day today, thanks for a lovely time”.

He leaned over to me reaching out.

My eyes widened in anticipation.   My Chopper, lovely little Chopper.

He’s going to say thank you after all.

I sat there, gaping smile, ready for a squidgy hug.   He IS a good polite boy after all!

He leaned over, arms outstretched.

His little fingers crawled over to me, and reached my baggy pyjama top.

He poked my nipple, laughed, and said “Mummy, are these things heavy?”

I switched the light off, and left the room.

So, I didn’t get a thank you this time.  Just a boob prod. And I’m fine with it.   TOTALLY FINE!!!!

It’s still a battle I have on my radar……I will win.    Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but maybe when he is 19 and he wants a friggin Nissan Micra.   Then I will triumph and he will be the exquisitely behaved young man I am trying to shoe horn him into now, far too prematurely it would seem.

Le Toddler Tunnel

vodka

I never fitted in with the new mum crowd.   I have friends with kids, which was simpler as I knew them and they knew me, but when I went to baby groups, I felt out of place.   I was usually trying to act swan-like, gliding stylishly over the water, wildly paddling underneath, so the pressure of displaying a glittery disposition whilst trying to redo under-crotch poppers for the millionth time was sometimes too much.

I made some new pals of course, but there’s nothing like the tender haven of old mates who are going through the same thing – in a way they became a sanctuary that I naturally migrated towards.

So, no matter which way you slice it, I neglected my non-kid friends.   I would often see a text, and it would take me days to respond. I‘d feel guilt-ridden, and madly text an apology…..and the cycle continued for the best part of a year.

Womenfolk burden themselves to be all things to everyone, but the reality is that friendships evolve – it’s a fabulous thing, and yes you may fritter away some profiterole (peripheral) friends, (it’s the friendship equivalent of natural selection), but those who you have deep-rooted bonds with, will come back in your life when nature feels like you are both ready.

Mr G and I visited friends recently – a friendship built on the dusty foundation of vodka and late nights, drinking sessions peppered with all-consuming chats about life, leaving pumped full of shots, emotionally spent, and physically drained.   When Mr G and I had Chopper, time spent with these friends naturally diminished.   Awkwardly, we appeared to become social media friends in the main, the odd text, but in general, they sadly drowned in a baby sized dollop of neglect.

When Chopper was 2 years old, they invited all three of us for Sunday Dinner, to celebrate her opening a new business – hurrah, we are “putting time in” again, stamping our friendship with that black ink saying “STILL FRIENDS”!

But something was different.

We felt different. I sensed they felt different too.

They don’t have kids, therefore their lives are incredibly different to ours, obviously.   I was stunned to find that conversation was stilted, clumsy and apologetic.   Their lives are gloriously dazzled with late nights, lie-ins, spontaneity, and freedom.   They travel….without a roof rack.   They go for dinner in restaurants and finish full meals whilst still hot.   They go to the toilet alone.   Shots pumped into us on those giddy nights, now replaced with cups of tea and polite exchanges.   It didn’t help that Chopper spent the entire time scooter-ing around their pristine landscaped back garden and performing clothes-line wrestling manoeuvres on their Cocker Spaniel.   They wanted to tell us all their exciting news without the interruption of a pocket-sized tormentor, but Mr G and I spent all of our time with one eye on Chopper making sure he wasn’t setting anything alight in the kitchen.

I left their house feeling old.   A bit deflated really.   Are our lives that different now that I struggle to drum up my sparkling banter with them?    I felt racked with guilt for not connecting with them anymore.

The fact is friends without kids for a time became difficult to connect with.   Awful to admit.  You are so out of tune with each other for that little period of time, and whilst you are desperate to reach out and feel that warmth (and associated Vodka), the connections you once had, are frazzled.   Not worn down to the bone, just fatigued, and frayed around the edges – entirely recoverable!   I’m sure friends without kids have felt the same about me when I bleat on about the latest hilarious thing Chopper has said.   Connection timed out.

So, rather than feeling guilty, which we do WAY too much of these days…..I want to celebrate friendships and the way they evolve throughout your life,   It’s no bad thing.   I have had some influential friendships built from whatever stage of life I was in (the acting phase, the waitressing phase, the getting shitfaced phase).   The wonderful university girls, whom at one time, were my entire life!   Now, we see each other once a year, and embracing this as reality rather than a friendship-failing is truly the only sensible thing you can do.   Otherwise, you’d constantly be strangled by ghosts of friendships past.

As Chopper is now older, time with friends, kid-free and mit Kindern alike, is thankfully more frequent, and I can start to smell the old life returning in parts….. It’s a delicious smell.   Smells like Prosecco.   Smells like Espresso Martini.   Smells like…..you know where I’m going with this.   So now, the awkwardness has faded, and I feel like I am tap-tap-tapping away at the side of the obsessed little tunnel I found myself in as a new mum, like an exhausted woodpecker, and now years on, I have a lovely big hole in the tunnel, where every now and then I poke my celebratory blow-dried head of hair out, and thank the Great God of Gin that I made it out with my sanity, with the help of alcohol and friends.

 

Circus Tricks in 35 Minutes

hurl

Trying to leave the house at pace with a child is like crossing a motorway on a unicycle, covered in treacle, whilst a game-show host throws objects at you and tries to get you to answer 10 questions in 60 seconds.

I wake up with good intentions most mornings, clear my throat ready for the singy-songy mummy voice, deep breaths and lots of general motherly coo-ing.   Imperative to success is plenty of communication around the exit strategy, to make sure Chopper knows what lies ahead.

The other morning I was scheduled to get the 708am train for an early meeting.   I was intending to get a taxi, so knowing it was a solo exit, I gave myself a comfortable 35 minutes to leave the house.

Things start to become frantic when Mr G unexpectedly woke up and said he would run me to the train station, lovely and kind that he is.  This removes the need for awkward pre-7am conversations with taxi drivers, but it also involves Chopper being ready for nursery so we can all leave together.

I don’t know what I was thinking accepting the lift.   I hadn’t prepared for riding the unicycle that day.

Having insanely accepted the offer, and knowing the complications that lay ahead, the speed at which I was operating ramped up a notch.  Suddenly washing my hair was scrapped, and instead I pulled out my dry shampoo – sprayed ferociously.   Breakfast was instantly a pipedream.  Make-up starts to be erratically lobbed into my bag so it can applied on the train.

I make it through a speedy shower (I’ve got it down to 2.5 minutes without a hair wash), and I am applying face moisturiser before I hear Chopper stirring.  I start frenziedly layering creams and concealer  like an ice cream man haphazardly constructing a 99 cone.

Chopper arrives at the bedroom door.

With his Trunky.

He announces that he is isn’t going to live with us anymore.

The treacle.

I take a deep breath and start the negotiations forthwith.

‘Not living with us any more, why?’

I’ve got one eye on my face – skin is not responding well to my vigorous moisturiser patting onslaught.

‘I’m moving out’

‘Yep, gather that. Where to?’

‘Grandma’s’

‘Ok, that’s fine, can we move later as mummy is in a rush to leave’

‘Not you Mummy, just me!’

‘Ok fine, I will drop you off at Grandma’s later’

Hysterical crying ensues.  ‘I don’t want to live at Grandma’s!’

Treacle. Motorway.

I summon Mr G to sweep up this emotional wreck and try to wrestle some clothes on him, whilst I get dressed.  Glance at the clock, we need to leave in 10 minutes.  F*cking f*ck.

Whilst I hear Mr G and Chopper in a boisterous underpants negotiations in the bedroom, I make it downstairs and start throwing things wildly towards the door.

  • Nursery Bag
  • Reading Folder
  • Coat
  • Shoes

Chopper arrives downstairs and his mood seems to have swung back to the positive. Hurrah.  Let’s pounce.

‘Let’s go guys!’ My singy-songy voice is still there, but now it has manic undertones.

‘Not yet Mummy, I need a wee!’

Of course you do.

Treacle.  Fast cars hurling passed me. Motorway.

Mr G makes his way outside with the luggage ensemble and Chopper goes to the toilet.  I run to the kitchen to grab a cereal bar/breakfast snickers in disguise, and fling it into my bag.   I’m heading to the cloakroom to put my coat on, then I pop my head into the loo.

‘Come on Chopper, time to go’

‘Mummy?’

‘Yes?’

‘Mummy?’

‘Yes?’

‘Mummy?’

‘I already said YES!’

Singy-songy voice doesn’t sound convincing when it’s through gritted teeth.   He’s sensed it’s a bogus attempt.

‘Mummy, don’t shout!’

‘I’m not SHOUTING…Come on, what do you need?’

‘I’ve forgotten now’

‘OK, fine, I am sure you will remember it’

‘I’ve forgotten because you were SHOUTING!’

‘Ok, sorry’ – I’m not sorry.  Sorrynotsorry, sorrynotsorry, sorrynotsorry.

‘Can YOU try to remember what I was going to say?’

‘I don’t know that because it was you who wanted to say it’

‘I don’t remember it.’

‘Let’s wash your hands and get into the car, and we can work out what it was’.  I usher him to the sink and start thrusting the soap dispenser up and down and turning on the tap.   Of course the tap is running too fast and sprays all over him and me.  F*ckety f*ck.

Three minutes later, he has a new t shirt-on and I’m patting my wet crotch…..we are mere strides away from the front door.

‘Mummy, I’ve remembered what I wanted to say’

Goodie.  Goodie.  Goodie.

‘The toilet roll is empty, can I wee through the hole in it now?’

Mental note to chastise Mr G.   This kind of loo roll challenge has his name written all over it.   ‘No, no weeing through the loo roll, you’ve already had a wee, let’s go, chop chop’.

As we approach the train station, I start to revive the exit strategy communication – to warn him I am about to leave the car.   If he doesn’t know it beforehand, it can take me 5 minutes to peel him off me.  I remind him in my fake jaunty voice, that I will pick him from nursery, and try to open the car door.

‘No Mummy!’

The treacle. The unicycle.

‘I have to go Chopper, I’ll be late. I will pick you up from nursery’

‘Mummy, no!’

‘I have to go, sorry, I’ll see you later, and Mummy will see you at nursery’

‘No, Mummy!’

‘Chopper, no! I have to leave now.   Bye’

I walk off, feeling the usual pang of work guilt, and imagine his tear-stained clammy cheeks, puffing up red all the way to nursery.   Poor Mr G having to listen to all those tears and all that upset.   Poor Chopper missing his Mummy.

I turned back around and tempted to rush back for a cuddle, I realise he is shouting out of the window at me.

It’s probably more pleas not to leave, the heartbreak of an abandoned child, a child who needs his mummy, a child who yearns for his mother’s love and needs her tender touch and soothing cuddles.   I contemplate not getting on the train, then as the traffic noise dies down, with his head stretching out of the window to shout at me, I hear what he is saying.

‘Mummy, listen!  I was saying don’t pick me up from nursery.  I’m living at Grandma’s now, remember!’

He turns around to Mr G and they drive off.  All is calm.  Another exit strategy accomplished.   Let’s hope he doesn’t try the toilet roll trick at nursery.

 

Ham Shank

20161023_195602When I found myself in the post-natal ward after having Chopper,  I was at my lowest physical ebb.    I had been drugged like an injured wild elephant,  hadn’t slept for almost 3 days,  and my skin was resembling Alec Ferguson after a particularly thorny FA Cup tie.

Chopper didn’t fancy the usual route down the Channel de la Front Bottom, and instead stood firm until yanked out of my stomach like a tree root.    Mr G was quickly ordered home by the midwives and I fell into a hazy slumber.

Sometime later,  I was awoken by a midwife dealer,  promising drugs.    I excitedly wolfed them down,  and as I drunkenly fed the baby,  I felt sorry for this microscopic individual looking up at my puffed-out giant balloon face.   He must have thought Phil Mitchell had given birth to him.   9 months the keen little sausage was tucked up in there, patiently waiting for a glimpse of his lovely life-giver, and here she was, with cheeks like squirrels, skin like the Gruffalo, and sweating like a wrestler.

Poor Chopper.

Poor Mr G.   Obviously (but sadly for him), he had spent the previous few days with me whilst I snarled and sneered my way through labour, grunting orders at him and gripping him like a sweaty Tudor Monarch gnawing on a chicken leg – But when he returned the next morning, I think even he was shocked at what he saw.   My face was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, with bright red spots, (bordering on boils), and purple veins smeared across my face,  and my body seemed to have inflated into one giant stretchmark.

Mr G lovingly asked if I wanted to take some time to have a shower whilst he was there.   I sensed he wasn’t being kind, as I’m certain I saw him taking deep sniffs into the neck of an empty Lucozade bottle in between talking to me.  I couldn’t blame him, my armpit sweat was reaching epic levels and appeared to be making his eyes water, so god knows what was going on in parts of my body I couldn’t even see.

So, I dragged my dozy drugged backside to the shower.

As I took my freshly prepared hospital holdall to the shower room with me,  I saw my make-up bag…..and at that time right there,  right then,  I knew I’d never look at her in the same way for a long, long time.   Right now, all I was hoping to do was not smell like landfill.    Mascara and Lip-gloss may as well burn in the hospital needle inferno.

I stepped out of the shower, and disturbingly I was greeted by a full length mirror exposing my poor battered body to me like a mound of dough left ready to prove.    It was like my old body,  but I appeared to have a large bulging suitcase in place of my belly, thighs like slabs of ham, and two bulbous boobs with matching angry nipples who looked like they were ready to jet-wash Chopper into oblivion at the mere sniff of a latch on.

I turned away from the mirror and got dressed in my next set of paper knickers given to me by the hospital, and a pair of elasticated trousers. I slowly made my way back to the bed.

Mr G gave me a magazine and said “I picked this up on the way here”.

I looked down, and on the front of the magazine it said “There’s still time to shape up for New Year”.

It was December.

I toyed with sending a picture of my body to the writer of that article with a massive angry scrawl saying “Sort this shambles of a body out and I’ll pay you a million pounds you lying piece of turd”.

But I didn’t.

Because I was too tired, and the nips were steaming and primed for Platinum Wash Number 4.

So I sat down on my flabby excuse for an ass, and pulled Chopper close to me.

Babies can’t see much anyway, and Mr G was able to breathe without contorting his face anymore, and I knew the dealer would be making the rounds soon, so all was good in the hood…..even with my new-found suitcase belly and thighs cut from the cold meat counter.

 

 

 

Volcano Potatoes

potato

There’s an unwritten rule of parenthood – don’t tell prospective parents the brutal truth of what they’re about to hurl themselves into.   Upholding the secret is crucial to the preservation of human life.

I almost broke the rules one day.

Chopper was 1 at the time and Mr G and I had emerged battered and bruised from the first year of parenthood, with marriage in-tact, but severely malnourished, and being held together by a pungent brew of wine and Winnie the Pooh.

My friend was pregnant and we had a 3 hour journey together on the train.   She asked about how having Chopper had affected our relationship.

Hmm.

Being a strangled affiliate of the ‘don’t tell anyone the truth’ club, I didn’t mention that Mr G and I conversed in swear words alone for the first 3 months, I didn’t tell her that I had dreamt of Mr G bleeding out a slow painful death after his mobile went off and woke the baby up, and I didn’t tell her that we had a no-sleep competition daily, whereby Mr G would victoriously wake up, and declare that he had the “worst sleep ever last night” and I would spend the next night sticking imaginary daggers in his eyes in a savage fashion whilst he was snoring.

Instead, I told her the mildest story I could – one that I felt bordered on acceptable, but truth be told, if I was hauled in front of the disciplinary committee at the ‘keeping schtum’ club, they may have given me a formal warning.

One day, Chopper and I had a particular tough stint.   It was winter and snowing.   The ice on the ground made it virtually impossible to get out, and on that day I had no visitors.   It was a dark day.   In all manners of darkness.   Chopper cried from morning to noon to evening.   He wanted to be held, then would stop crying temporarily, but then would erupt again.  I tried the usual checklist of solutions, and none of them had been received well, in fact most of them seemed to exacerbate the situation.

Then Mr G text me……. to say he would be two hours late home from work.

Not good.

I hysterically rehearsed what was sure to be my finest wife speech of all time.   I was going to unleash the vilest of verbal blitzkreigs upon him, one that would go down in history.

When he came home, the first thing I saw was how happy he was to see us, the brazen f*cker.

I started to take a deep breath ready to roll out all manner of insults at him for leaving me alone for an extra two hours with a baby who was trying to break me down piece by piece throughout the day in manner of a slow rollercoaster crying torture, I’m happy, I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m sad, I’m going to fry your brain silly mother woman you….

Instead, I cried.

Mr G looked at me in his protective wonderful way, gave me a massive hug, and ushered me upstairs to take a bath and get some rest and he said he would bring up some food.

My Mr Gravy.

I mentally threw away my script.

I went upstairs and 30 minutes later, he appears at the door.

Anyone who knows Mr G knows he doesn’t do things by halves.   He had lovingly prepared for me two football-sized jacket potatoes, overflowing with a mound of cheese and beans, exploding like hot lava all over the plate, and on to the tray.

I looked at him and growled…..

“When have I ever eaten this much food in all of the time you’ve known me, for f*ck’s sake??!!”

And that was it – a brief narrative to my pregnant friend of how your relationship will change in the early days.   Your husband will come home from work, and without taking his coat or shoes off, and with a crying baby suddenly landed on his hip, will give you a massive reassuring hug and make you feel like you can carry on, and right there, right then, you will love him more than anything in the world.

Then he will feed you oversized jacket potatoes and you will want to stab him in the neck.